Monday, 3 June 2013

Safely at home with the criminally minded

Well … I’m finally starting to feel as if I’m a genuine member of the crime-writing community.

You might argue that with STALKERS selling better than I ever imagined possible (soon to be launched in Germany, Hungary and Poland – whoohooo!), the sequel SACRIFICE due out next month and the first draft of the third book in the series, HUNTED, almost at completion, I’m already there. But I’ve always been slow to make positive assumptions about myself. I don’t know what it is – some flaw in my personality, but I always feel like as if I need more proof about my own stuff.

However, things are now starting to happen that I’m finding massively encouraging.

To start with, I spent last week at CrimeFest in Bristol. It was my first ever visit to this annual international gathering of thriller writers, and I felt home from home. I met and chatted for ages with some amazing people: LUCA VESTE, MARK SENNEN, HOWARD LINSKEY, NEIL WHITE, MATT HILTON, MARI HANNAH, NICK QUANTRILL, STEVE MOSBY, DAVID MARK, not to mention numerous others (some of whom get tagged later in this column, but apologies to anyone I've missed out entirely).

It was hugely gratifying for a former horror guy like myself to be welcomed so warmly. In many ways it was an education too. It seems that even the most successful, multi-selling crime writers are apparently plagued by the same uncertainties and doubts about their work: not just the technical stuff like characterisation, pacing, authenticity and so on, but also those often unspoken matters of taste, decency and morality. I attended one particularly fascinating seminar, which addressed the issues of sadism, violence and human degradation, and asked the question just how far, as writers, should we be willing or even allowed to go when this is essentially an entertainment medium.

It’s funny but those matters always seem more straightforward when I’m writing horror. At the end of the day, everyone knows that’s a fantasy. When you’re writing crime, it’s far less clear-cut.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing. Suffice to say that CrimeFest was an absolute blast of a weekend, and I’m now looking forward very much to the HARROGATE CRIME FESTIVAL in July.

The picture at the top above was taken during one of the nights in Bristol, when I went out for a smashing meal with, left to right: PHIL PATTERSON of the MARJACQ LITERARY AGENCY, a lady who never needs any introduction - the always irrepressible SARAH PINBOROUGH (who made the journey over from horror to crime before I did – more about Sarah later), PAUL CLEAVE, STEPHANIE GLENCROSS, KEVIN WIGNALL (hiding), SIMON KERNICK, my lovely wife Cathy, moi, and TOM WOOD.

Another crime writing thing that’s happened to me in recent weeks concerns the achievements of best-selling self-published author, RACHEL ABBOTT, whose first two novels, THE BACK ROAD and ONLY THE INNOCENT, have consistently topped the recent ebook charts, and all without the assistance of a major mass-market publisher.

I’ve chatted an awful lot with Rachel in the last few days; we’ve been tweeting each other, exchanging emails and as many ideas as possible, and finally Rachel came up with the rather cool notion that we should have an open-ended conversation, write it down and stick it on both our blogs. The result is here, on RACHEL’S BLOG, which has a stated aim to help authors going through the process of self-publishing their first ebook, and includes reviews of various indie publications. I’ll reprint it all on this blog sometime in the near future, but not today. It was Rachel’s concept, so she’s the one who gets first dibs. 

Any prospective author who’s thinking of following the self-publishing route ought to find Rachel’s views and experiences fascinating. Self-publishing is a complex procedure, as we all know – but RACHEL ABBOTT has made it happen in spectacular fashion. I strongly recommend that you check out her site and her books on a regular basis.

Now … I mentioned earlier that SARAH PINBOROUGH would be cropping up in conversation again today, and here’s the reason why. I’m very pleased to announce that on August 2 this year I’ll attending Waterstones at Liverpool One (12, College Lane, Liverpool), and sitting on a special TWISTED TALES panel, consisting of myself, Sarah, and another amazing thriller author, ALISON LITTLEWOOD.

In the now tried-and-tested fashion of TWISTED TALES, we’ll each be focussing on our latest gruesome offering. In Sarah’s Case, it will be the novel MAYHEM, a semi-supernatural jaunt through a late-Victorian London in which a ‘torso killer’ is giving Saucy Jack a run for his money; in Alison’s case it will be the novel PATH OF NEEDLES, in which a rookie cop is confronted by several horrific re-enactments of various fairy tales; in my case it will be SACRIFICE, the second novel in the DS Heckenburg series, and an investigation into a procession of ghastly murders apparently committed to celebrate famous folk festivals.

We’ll all be giving readings, answering questions and of course signing copies for people. I’m not sure whether the guys and girls at TWISTED TALES have devised a title for this particular event yet, but I think it will be something like HUNTING SHADOWS, the focus being on uber-dark crime novels but with mystical and Gothic elements woven into them.

Tickets are £3, I believe, (or £2 with a Watestones loyalty card). They are available in the shop, or can be booked on 0151 709 9820.

Hoping to see you all there. 

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